[UPDATED 28 Jan, 9am, with reax from DPM Teo, PSC probe details]
No one is above the law.
That was the clear message that rang out from Davos, Switzerland, where Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is attending a meeting of the G20-countries.
Speaking to local media there, PM Lee said in no uncertain terms on Friday morning that his government will follow through on Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) investigations into the alleged misconduct by top public officials Peter Lim and Ng Boon Gay. Lim is ex-Singapore Civil Defence Force Commissioner while Ng used to lead the Central Narcotics Bureau.
“Whoever he is, whichever position he occupies, we will pursue the matter and settle it one way or another,” PM Lee was quoted as saying in The Straits Times.
“If he did wrong, he must be punished,” he continued. “If he did nothing wrong, he must be exonerated.”
It was the Singapore leader's first comments on the high-profile CPIB probe which has gripped the nation.
Separately, Deputy PM Teo Chee Hean also said he was "quite disappointed these two cases had arisen."
Speaking on the sidelines of a Chinese New Year event in Singapore late on Friday, DPM Teo was quoted in The Straits Times that "nevertheless, it does demonstrate the strength of our system, which is that any such allegations will be fully and thoroughly investigated."
It has since also emerged that the two former chiefs of the CPIB and CNB -- both high-flying public service officers and former government scholarship holders -- are also facing disciplinary action by the Public Service Commission (PSC), reported ST.
Earlier on Friday, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) also said there was “no delay” in releasing news of the CPIB probe to the public.
The MHA has been under scrutiny for why news of the probe was only made public after Chinese daily Lianhe Wanbao broke the story earlier this week on 24 Jan.
But in a statement issued Friday afternoon, the MHA said that it is “normal procedure” for people to be arrested if the CPIB suspected they had committed an offence. The arrested individual can also be released on bail, although he or she will be required to return for further investigation, it added.
“At that point in time (when Ng and Lim were arrested, released on bail and placed on leave), it was premature to make any announcement as CPIB investigations had just started and the outcome was not known,” the statement said. “Furthermore, a public announcement at that point could compromise CPIB investigations,” it added.
The MHA explained it was only on 20 January that the CPIB informed them that they had found sufficient basis for the ministry to consider civil service disciplinary action for misconduct.
They then relieved them of their duties and started disciplinary action five days later, appointing replacements Eric Yap and Ng Ser Song to Lim’s and Ng’s respective posts.
MHA said it had planned to make news of the probe public on 25 January, but ended up advancing its media release a day earlier after the Chinese daily broke the story on Tuesday.
“Due process has to be followed to facilitate investigations, to be fair to officers accused, and to avoid prejudicing any legal or disciplinary proceedings,” the MHA said.
Meanwhile, more information has emerged about the still-unidentified female IT executive who is believed to be involved with Ng and Lim.
The two top-ranking public officials currently being investigated by the CPIB are believed to have on separate occasions had sex with the 36-year-old woman, reported The Straits Times (ST). All three, the paper stated, are married, and Ng and Lim are believed to have both admitted during questioning to having improper relationships with a woman.
The broadsheet reported that the woman was a sales director at a Japanese multinational company that provides business-scale IT storage systems, but moved to an American software firm about six months ago. The woman’s friends and contacts also told the paper that she is “tall, slim, long-haired and vivacious”.
However, Lianhe Wanbao reported that she is in her 40s, and had been divorced from her husband, a Mr Yong, since 10 years ago. According to the tabloid, she also has two children, and apparently has the nickname “pretty woman”.
The evening daily also reported that in her previous position at the Japanese company, the woman entertained clients and accompanied them on golf and overseas trips.
Ng has known the woman in question for more than three years, and is believed to have been close to her since the start of 2009, ST said. CPIB’s investigations were said to be around two IT-related procurement contracts, valued at approximately $350,000, that Ng signed, and which underwent the regular process of awarding tenders.
The broadsheet also reported that the Japanese company the woman worked for was subcontracted by the two firms which were awarded the tenders.
In the meantime, Lim and Ng are said to be seeking legal assistance, and another six senior Singapore Civil Defence Force officers, together with employees from the IT sector are assisting with the CPIB investigation, reported the paper.
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